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Features

June 11, 2013

Indulge, but eschew gluttony

Harvard professor Robert Langdon is back in Dan Brown’s latest suspense novel, “Inferno.” Based on Dante Alighieri’s iconic medieval poem, “The Divine Comedy,” Brown’s thriller takes readers on a race through Florence and Venice to uncover the symbolism in Vasari’s paintings, Brunelleschi’s Duomo cathedral, and Dante’s “Inferno,” all clues to a convoluted and lethal plot.

Waking up in Rome with amnesia, Professor Langdon is soon on the run from unknown assassins. Aiding him is the beautiful emergency room doctor, Sienna Brooks, who helps him escape. At her apartment Langdon begins to decode the clues to an impending bio-terror attack master-minded by brilliant-but-mad geneticist, Bertrand Zobrist. Embattled with the World Health Organization over the ethics of population control, Zobrist hatched the diabolical Inferno scheme believing it would save mankind.

In a race against time, Langdon must unlock the whereabouts of the place where the world will be “changed forever.” 

This is the fourth in the Robert Langdon series. While I could hardly pick up the third novel, “The Lost Symbol,” I could hardly put down “Inferno.” Brown has crafted an engaging thriller around the big questions of world population and the future of the human race. “Inferno” is a wonderfully didactic romp through Italy’s greatest art, architecture and literature

One of the Circles of Hell mentioned in Dante’s “Inferno” is reserved for “gola” or gluttony. This image is deeply ingrained in the Florentine psyche. In their thinking, they have the right to enjoy food coupled with the moral obligation to eat responsibly. Americans are trying harder to adopt this healthy attitude toward eating. Cook up the following delicious recipes and please eat them responsibly.

Roasted Beet and Arugula Salad

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons shallots, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon honey

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 medium beets, cooked and quartered

6 cups fresh arugula

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries

1/2 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cubed

3 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, coarsely crumbled


Line a baking sheet with foil. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Whisk the vinegar, shallots, and honey in a medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in the oil. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with salt and pepper. Toss the beets in a small bowl with enough dressing to coat. Place the beets on the prepared baking sheet and roast until the beets are slightly caramelized, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Set aside and cool.

Toss the arugula, walnuts, and cranberries in a large bowl with enough vinaigrette to coat. Season the salad, to taste, with salt and pepper. Mound the salad atop 4 plates. Arrange the beets around the salad. Top with the avocado and goat cheese, and serve.

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